A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Grade Scale adopted at MetalKings.com (starting from the lowest)

1 - Shite
2 - Could be worse
3 - Could be better
4 - Damn good
5 - Killer

4/5
ARTENSION
Sacred Pathways
2002
Frontiers Records
/ CD-Maximum
heavy progressive

I wonder what made Artension reunite in its original line-up with bassist Kevin Chown and drummer Mike Terrana. In the past they had a load of problems such as differences with the record company ("Shrapnel"), troubled relations and absolutely no live activities But anyway they are together again and this time the contract is signed with "Frontiers Records", the most hard rocking label of our times. As far as I remember from previous releases the band always delivered such complicated music that even Dream Theatre sometimes could not compete with it. On the contrary the new album is a bit different, it is easier and more straight-forward. In other words, Artension finally managed to find the right balance of keyboards and guitar - just listen to the title track, "The Emperor" or "The Killing" and see yourself. Judging from music and lyrics the most impressing song is "Flower Of The Orient" which tells a love story of American man and Japanese girl. In general, the album proves that the reunion idea was not so bad and Artension will hopefully go on tour some day.. (Dead Reaper)

4/5
BLACKSHINE
Soulless & Proud
2002
SPV/ Soyuz
rock'n'roll

Who the hell described this as "goth'n'roll" (the term taken from SPV's press release)? What is goth'n'roll, to begin with? I'm now listening to "Soulless & Proud" for the third time now, but I don't see a trace of goth here. To me the record sounds like a package of Motorhead covers played by death metal musicians. Dirty guitars are 90-percent Motorheadish, only a bit heavier, and the vocal style is close to Lemmy, too. Some melodies can be considered gothic, but actually, they are more reminiscent of Finnish love metal. A great record for partying, headbanging, driving, jogging, having wild sex or beating the shit out of your brains, but not for thoughtful and quiet listening, which is a requirement for gothic albums. The cover, yeah, it's goddamn gothic and goddamn great. I haven't heard Blackshine's previous releases and have no idea of the music they contain (we tried to interview the band twice, but for no clear reason they wouldn't make a phone call), but "Soulless & Proud" is one hell of a good record. Just don't try to think when listening to it. (Maniac)

4/5
BLIND GUARDIAN
And Then There Was Silence
2001
Virgin Records
epic power metal

There's nothing more pleasant for many to slag off the music they once loved. Blind Guardian, one of the most popular power metal bands in Russia, got a surprisingly large amount of criticism with the release of this record, mostly from people who were fans a few years ago. For no clear reason "And Then There Was Silence" is blamed of every sin a metal band can commit, which is indeed a shame for the single is not bad at all. It only contains two tracks (plus a multimedia video), but the title track alone clicks at over 14 minutes. The song is extremely complicated, with tons of theme and tempo changes, choirs going all the way and a synthesized orchestra playing. It's not catchy, and for obvious reasons, for very few can make such a long composition epic and catchy at the same time. Nevertheless, it's a solid piece of music and a logical development of Blind Guardian's previous full-length "Nightfall In Middle Earth". Personally, I enjoyed "And Then There Was Silence" even more than the entire "Nightfall", maybe an album like that all the way will be boring, but being released on a single it sounds great. In addition, the CD contains a three-minute ballad "Harvest Of Sorrow", which is an outtake from "Nightfall" sessions, nothing special, but still nice. What's really disappointing is that the 14-minute epic will be included on the forthcoming album in the same version. Think for yourself whether you are ready to pay your money for a short ballad and a video clip. (Maniac)

5/5
BRAINSTORM
Metus Mortis
2001
Metal Blade/FONO
power metal

And now it's time to welcome a new power metal sensation! Germany's Brainstorm have all the chances to be the next great power metal newcomer after Edguy and Primal Fear. After all, they have been spectacular enough to attact attention of a U.S. record label, which is an outstanding achievement for a German band. Knowing this, you won't be surprised by the fact that Brainstorm combines best elements of German and American power metal schools - excellent melodies and powerful choruses on the one hand, and heavy guitars and specific sound somewhat in the vein of Iced Earth and Nevermore on the other hand. Every song on "Metus Mortis" is a hit (my favorites are "Shadowland", "Under Lights" and "Meet Me In The Dark"), and even though the record is 62 minutes long, it's surpirisingly easy to listen to in one take. Singer Andy B. Franck (ex-Ivanhoe) did an excellent job, his voice is strong and very expressive, sometimes bringing to mind parallels with Rob Halford. The drummer seems to follow the steps of Scott Travis (also of the mighty Judas Priest), while guitarists never stop putting out one excellent melodic solo after another. "Metus Mortis" is Brainstorm's fourth album, and if the band goes on like that at least for a couple of records, it is bound to turn into one of the most influential acts on the international power metal scene. (Maniac)

3/5
BURDEN OF GRIEF
On Darker Trails
2001
Massacre Records
Gothenburg melodic death made in Germany
Dedicated to all the Dark Tranquility and In Flames fans... This fresh product from the German metal manufacturing industry produced with the tremendous help from Andy Classen (Holy Moses, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter and hell lot of others) looks like a blend of the not-so-fresh works by many other bands of this genre. Although we have to accept that the guys have definitely jumped all over themselves to make everything right. The true lovers of the so-called Gothenburg school will be really satisfied with and deeply touched by what they will hear - vocals, guitars, armor-piercing drums, melodic inserts, let's say, "Best from the West (of Sweden)". The crowning track of "On Darker Trails" is a cover of Metallica's "Master of Puppets", the all-times metal classic. However, it is played in the same key as the rest of the album and frankly speaking I expected lots more from it. Cover versions should contain something interesting. It should not be just a re-play of the original. And sad but the vocals do not fit into it at all. Dull. For fans only . (Felix Da Katt)

4/5
CLAWFINGER
A Whole World of Nothing (Limited Edition)
2001
Supersonic / BMG
Heavy industrialized rap-metal (nothing nu!!)
What can be said here, many people were longing to have this record. 4 years have passed since the last release and no one can say that the band spent this time in the oblivion - the Swedes took part in various compilations, most of time giving birth to various covers. Anyways, it was really interesting whether the band could succeed in putting onto the CD the same groovy stuff as on their first releases. Frankly speaking I dug only half of their last "clawfingered child" and only because the music played by Clawfinger started to turn into something more "tasty", there was even a ballad. Something of the same kind we find on "A Whole World of Nothing". Some of the tracks are blowing year head of the shoulders (e.g. "Nothing Going On", the one with heaviest rotation on radio, and the first track "Two Steps Away"). There's also a "ballad-ish" type'o'song ("Simon Says"), plus a cover on a popular song "Vienna" (Ultravox), one of the limited ed. tracks is a cover on the Jimmy Hendrix's "Manic Depression". Let's say - there's helluvalot of different stuff. The band hasn't changed at all - all the same type of "singing-reading", heavy distorted music mixed on a grandiose palette of samples, same catchy simplicity in the tracks ("I Close My Eyes"). But! Frankly speaking the 2001 release has been having a spin in my player already for a couple of months and at first I thought about it as of not more than 3 points, 'cause I simply waited for something else - it was a bit dull to listen to the same 55-minute piece of music that was so nicely represented on let's say "Use Your Brains"... Even taking into account that the new stuff is much more professionally done... But sometime later it occurred to me that this is what the band is so beloved for. Almost nobody expects anything really new and unexpected from Clawfinger. So - no surprises for you Ladies & Gentlemen! If you liked Clawfinger before, "A Whole Lot of Nothing" won't disappoint you . (Felix Da Katt)

5/5
CONCERTO MOON
The End Of The Beginning (Live In Tokyo)
1999/2001
Limb Music / SPV
classical power metal

After three studio albums Concerto Moon comes up with a new live offering. The first mini-LP entitled "Live Concerto" was released right after the first studio album "Fragments Of The Moon" on a small Japanese indie label and became a collector's item even in Japan. This time the band issued a full-size live CD containing all hits from all studio releases. The performance is brilliant and the only negative thing is that the voice of singer Takao Ozaki is deafened by guitars and drums, which however, doesn't spoil the listener's impression too much. Guitarist Norifumi Shima is pure Yngwie Malmsteen though 30min solos are not his cup of tea, which is great for a guitar player with such style. Moreover, anyone can feel that at live concerts the band sounds much better than in studio and is capable to demonstrate all feelings even in such a wild and emotional show. In addition, the European release has some nice surprises such as two new studio tracks, a karaoke version and a multimedia CD with the video version of the concert. The video leaves no doubt that the band is the only real competitor for Western power metal bands among everything that has ever come out of the Land of the Rising Sun. The only sad thing about the album is that it marks the end of singer Ozaki's work with the band. He is now replaced by a new vocalist. (Dead Reaper)

4+/5
DARK MOOR
The Gates Of Oblivion
2002
Arise Records / CD-Maximum
symphoic speed/power metal
If Rhapsody's "Rain Of A Thousand Flames" is too mid-tempo for you and narrations bore you to death, check out Dark Moor. It addition to being fast as hell (in the power metal limits, of course), the Spanish six-piece boasts a female vocalist with an excellent and unique voice that distinguishes Dark Moor from thousands of Rhapsody copycats. Another distinguishing feature is competent and even sophisticated playing that most bands of the genre can only dream of rivaling. Unlike its two predecessors, "The Gates Of Oblivion" is a very professional record, the sound is nearly perfect, with all symphonic parts and guitars being in place and easily discernible. Songs are great, too, though there are too many of them - 63 minutes of high-speed music that is, unfortunately, not very diverse, are a bit too much. The band felt it too, and turned the last track "Dies Irae" into a 11-minute epic with operatic vocals in the vein of Therion, which also worked out fine. Fans of Rhapsody just gotta check out "The Gates Of Oblivion", and I would also recommend the record to anyone who's not allergic to "Italian symphonic power". Dark Moor does lack diversity a bit, but taking into account the improvements that they achieved since the previous release, I have no doubts that that problem will be solved next time. (Maniac)

5/5
DEW-SCENTED
Inwards
2002
Nuclear Blast
thrash death

"Inwards", the fourth album of this brigade, is definitely soaked in heavy odours of At The Gates, The Haunted, Ritual Carnage and SLAYER. The guys even paid tribute to the thrash titans by recording a killer-cover of "War Ensemble" as a Japanese bonus track. After listening to "Inwards", the entrails of a human being could be compared to a formless mass sprawled on a butcher's serving table - the teeth that underwent a dental drill execution with ultra-speed double-base drums, the head that is not destined to move anymore after 37 minutes of non-stop head-banging. The thing that used to be the body now reflects all the torture that it suffered from the incisions of fast, sharp and dissecting guitar riffs. One can argue the novelty of the Dew-Scented musical approach to song-writing, concepts and other stuff like that, but who really needs this. I agree that "The Haunted Made Me Do It" sounded really eye-popping, but "Inwards" doesn't let us relax and reminds us that the thrash-death metal still lives and kicks some ass. (Felix Da Katt)

5/5
DILUVIUM
Aurora
2001
CCP Records / CD-Maximum
gothic metal

Fans of The Gathering's "Mandylion" gotta love this! The Serb six-piece produces atmospheric gothic metal with beautiful female vocals and a literally incredible number of great melodies. Seven tracks last for more than 50 minutes, but none of them seems long or tiresome. Moreover, "Aurora" does not have that deppressive mood so characteristic of the majority of gothic and doom releases. It sounds pacific and comforting, even though the lyrics ("Your Last Appearance", "This Usual Black") are far from happy. The performance and recording quality are top-notch, which allows the listener to take the music for what it's worth. Of special interest is the final track, "The Third Planet", which being the heaviest, is also the best on the album. Some may blame Diluvium for not treading any new grounds, but really, look at The Gathering, they did explore new dimensions, but "Mandylion" remains their strongest offering. Let's just hope that the Serbs will choose a different path and make more records as wonderful as this one. In general, it seems to me that the Yugoslav underground is on the rise, and we'd better watch out for some new sensations coming from the war-torn Balkans. (Maniac)

5/5
ELVENKING
Heathenreel
2001
AFM Records / CD-Maximum
power / folk
Wanna make the Heathenreel cocktail? Here's the recipe for ya: take 2 oz of power metal, 1 oz of Scandinavian folk, combine the ingredients in a shaker, flavour with growling vocals, sweeten with soprano and garnish with a pinch of black metal. Serve hot. But seriously, the Italians created a very interesting album. Their debut combines seemingly incompatible styles with such a success that you don't perceive the music as a cocktail, but rather as something integrated and indivisible. To tell you the truth, the beginning of the disc didn't even hint at the good things to come - the first track was nothing more than medieval chants in the vein of Blackmore's Night. However the second track caught my attention instantly - imagine a power metal band doing an Otyg cover, and you'll get the idea of what it sounds like. The longer the disc played, the more surprises it brought up. Brutal vocals made the first appearance on the fourth track. When "Skywards" started playing, I relaxed and figured that it was a time for a traditional ballad, but it was a mistake, for after five minutes the nice acoustic track was broken by a faster passage with screaming black metal vocals! Such crazy transitions are among the trademarks of the band, you'll meet them many times all over the album. Some may like such music, some not, some may call it too optimistic, but nobody can say that it's dull or monotonous. I'm not about to say that "Heathenreel" is a masterpiece and that Elvenking will go down in the history of heavy metal, but if the band's next record is be as good as this one, the future will be bright for them. (Lynx)

5/5
FANTOMAS
The Director's Cut
2001
Ipecac Recordings
intelligent music

Mike Patton - who is he? A Genius weird or a weird genius? No human being knows how to stop his creativity, the creativity that gave life to such an inconceivable record. But wait a bit; this album is more comprehensible, than the first Fantomas CD. That one was almost beyond any possible imagination - cacophony-like Mr. Bungle. This time the CD is split into self-distinctive tracks/works, each of them being a remake/cover of a well-known movie theme. The movies were specially selected not for the weak-nerved ones - "Cape Fear", "Twin Peaks", "Omen" and 13 more of that kind, to put it short - classics. Stylistically the album reminds of some sort of a freaky zoo. Imagine you are pacing from one cage to another but instead of staring at the animals from the outside you do this going into the cages. The doors in-between cages are open and in some cages you just walk playing with the animals, but the other cages, e.g. with lions or hyenas, you try to rush through. The same shit strikes you whilst listening to the CD - the styles vary so lightning-like from cacophony to amazingly romantic piece, from blast beats (performed by maestro Dave Lombardo) to thrash-death and so on and so forth. Mike's vocals alter with the same furious velocity and amplitude - from the already well-known screams, gurgles, squashes, grunts to the calm and beautiful voice of former Faith No More leader so respected and beloved by many ("Experiment In Terror"). Summary. TRY (or FORCE YOURSELF) to listen to the "The Director's Cut" up to the very end, then give it another spin and another, and only after that express your opinion, 'cause anyone can place this CD into the "For Fans Only" category, but not everyone is able to go into the concept of this music Especially after listening to the opening track with the "The Godfather" theme, that is, to put it mildly, different from the original (Felix Da Katt)

4/5
FAUST
Faust
2001
demo
power/death/folk

Let's start with the good news: the package of this demo CD rules! There's no booklet, actually, but the interactive session contains everything you can think of, including various photos, early audio tracks and complete lyrics. When I'm putting this CD in my computer, I feel proud for my compatriots. Now let's pass on to more arguable issues, I mean, music. Having listened to the demo I imagined the following scene: a few lads and a girl got together for a party, and after a few drinks they recalled classics of the world's literature such as Pushkin, Shakespeare or Goethe. Moreover, they decided to sing those classic works out loud Well, the music, lyrics and vocals are great when taken separately, but Faust, the band residing in the inland Russian republic of Udmurtia, failed to make a good combination of them. Now imagine Rhapsody with Oderus (GWAR) on the vocals performing the monologue of Hamlet ("To Be Or Not To Be") in Russian! I couldn't but burst into laughter in the moments that are supposed to be tragic and philosophical. Interpretations of Pushkin and Goethe have the same effect. In my opinion, a lyric like "to beat or not to beat" would suit this type of vocals better. However I must admit that the disc also contains clean (but somewhat amateurish) female vocals performing nice folk passages. In general, the band deserves four points, though the rate is a bit upfront. It's obvious that Faust has an enormous potential and a variety of original ideas, but the end product has been very raw so far. (Lynx)

4/5
THE FLOWER KINGS
The Rainmaker
2001
Inside Out Records
progressive rock

I guess you must really love progressive to appreciate this. 77 minutes of extremely complicated and sophisticated music are a blessing for adepts and a curse for everybody else who would be subjected to this massive doze of rhythm and tempo changes, sudden improvisations on any musical instrument and spaced vocals singing wise but somewhat strange lyrics ("Here she comes again smiling like a horse"). However if you enjoy Transatlantc and Dream Theater you cannot ignore this band, for "The Rainmaker" is among the year's greatest progressive highlights. 11-minute epic "Last Minute On Earth" is my favourite track off this record, with its massive heavy guitars and solemn singing. The next track is also great, it's a ballad, much simpler but even more emotional. Unlike most progressive bands that seem to have the major goal in impressing the audience with their supreme musicianshp, The Flower Kings rely on emotons, and who's gonna blame them if the message they convey requires expression in this particular style? The band's somewhat hippist lyrics suit better to progressive (or retro progressive, if you wish) than to black, death, power, jazz or whatever. From the technical point of view, "The Rainmaker" is nearly perfect, it's a finished work of art, but mind you, that it's not by accident that this particular type of art is absolutely alien to so many people. I, of course, recommend you to try it, but if you don't like it don't say you haven't been warned! (Maniac)

5/5
HYPOCRISY
Catch 22
2002
Nuclear Blast
death
'When you think I'm on the top I reverse and tell you all to fuck off I will not be destroyed, I refuse to be destroyed' - Peter Tagtgren
What the fuck!!! I have never really been a Hypocrisy fan and, with all honesty, up until very recently I used to think that it was high time Monsegnior Tatgren put his guitar in the case and went for the well-deserved retirement. Nontheless, here I am sitting my ass in the office, typing the review and banging my had like there is not tomorrow almost unconsciously, and my boss is already giving me these suspicious are-you-nuts?!-looks. Point is, I have not heard such a true aggression and madness since the times Slipknot's debut came out in 1999. As simple as that. After the dull, although still a pretty heavy and good quality release that 'Into the Abyss' was, I do not think that even the most ardent Tatgren supporters could have expected something like that. 'When you think I'm on the top I reverse and tell you all to fuck off - I will not be destroyed, I refuse to be destroyed' - enough said. Moreover, I will not go far away from the truth if I say that 'Catch 22' is probably Hypocrosy's most diverse album ever. We've got industrial a-la Fear Factory ('A Public Puppet', 'Destroyed'), and the already mentioned Slipknot ('Don't Judge Me' and 'Turn the Page'), and gothic/dark metal in the vein of Crematory ('On the Edge of Madness'), and melodic parts deriving from In Flames and Dark Tranquillity ('Uncontrolled' and 'Seeds of the Chosen One'), and Slayer with Sodom and Entombed ('Another Dead End for Another Dead Man'), and even the great and the terrible John Michael Osbourne in 'All Turns Black', in which Peter shows us that he can actually _sing_. And all of that still remains Hypocrisy by 667%. As to the sound - is there any point, really? I mean it's Peter Tatgren we are talking about here, after all, so Well, anyways, I bow my head in repent and apologize for any crap I ever said in the direction of the man and his band. Suits you Sir, ah! (Troll)

3/5
HYPOCRISY
Catch 22
2002
Nuclear Blast
melodic death
Another routine product has been made by Pete Tagtgren. A not too thick jam comprised mainly of concentrate without any unusual tricks to peel your ears off. Peter keeps mechanically producing similar albums for his so-called main project with stubborn persistency. Their quantity can't corrupt their quality, that does not change with time. The bright and lively opener 'Don t Judge Me' calls for a full down-and-out opinion to be expressed. The high-speed parts are the same: thorny plastic guitars that don't stand out against the common sound stream. But the thorns became dull and the rage turned into depression. There's no reason to anticipate anything special. As soon as the Swedes pick up speed they instantly fall for a melodic insert or a riff taffy. The infrequent and all too easily predictable rhythm shifts dilutes the sound and and gives an impression of an endless soap opera. Everybody knows everybody else and keeps anticipating another stab in the back. But tears are still true. I don t know why bu the heart-rending Peter voice accompanied with melodic guitar performance still drives me into a violent melancholy as many times before. It probably is a reflux since the times of Abducted, their best album from the melodic point of view, in my opinion. The accompaniment of the relatively brisk tracks 'A Public Puppet' and 'Turn the Page' would serve great for such activities as picking up the empty bottles scattered all over the room or barely bang your head against the walls.
Grade: New songs in the old manner for true fans of habitual for Hypocrisy square-cluster combination of high-speed and sensitive melodic performance. (Katafalych)

4-/5
IN FLAMES
The Tokyo Showdown
2001
Nuclear Blast
NWSDM live

This record had been cursed and scolded so many times that I got an impression that this is the worst live album and the worst band to hit the stage ever. However I saw In Flames at Wacken Open Air in 2001, and they did a really good show, so I was really looking forward to hear "The Tokyo Showdown" and find out what's so bad about it. I must admit that the CD is indeed worse than the actual live performance. The difference is like having sex and watching a porn movie. Nevertheless, there are some porn movies that are really good, and "The Tokyo Showdown", though there are claims to it, is still a good live offering. I can understand people dissatisfied with Anders Friden's specific vocals and messy sound absolutely uncharacteristic of records captured in Japan, but as to the first factor, you are getting used to it as the CD plays on, and the sound - well, top-notch sound alone does not make a good live CD. These two factors aside, "The Tokyo Showdown" is very enjoyable, of course, if you don't hate New Wave of Swedish Death Metal in general. My personal favourites are "Moonshield", "Only For The Weak", "Ordinary Story" (though it sounded more energetic at Wacken) and "Scorn" which incorporates the riff from "Reign In Blood". Frankly speaking, there are a lot of things that could be improved on the CD, but well, nobody's perfect. (Maniac)

3/5
KALMAH
They Will Return
2002
Spinefarm/FONO
melodic speed death-black
Aside from the earlier mentioned Andy Classen and his 'Stage One', the honorary title of Most-Popular-Producer-And-Studio-Among-The-Metal-Record-Labels is also sought for by Team Finland represented by Mika Jussila and Mikko Karmila, who race in the cockpit of Finnvox Studios. This time we are to review two products of this renowned studio that is Kalmah and Norther. I am seriously tempted to merge the two reviews into one and probably add them all up with a similar Mourning Caress, but let's be fair. If you by chance are familiar with any works of Children of Bodom or, moreover, if you have heard the Kalmah's previous CD, then 'They Will Return' is highly unlikely to become a revelation for you. (And well given the fact that these days in order not to have heard Children of Bodom you gotta be deaf all of this is making my task as reviewer a whole lot easier). Well what we have here is a melodic speed-thrash metal with quacking black vocals, lively guitar drills and a multitude of keyboard arrangements. And of course a cover here as well - Megadeth's 'Skin of My Teeth' - an exact copy of the original but for vokillz. (Troll)

3/5
KING DIAMOND
Abigail II: The Revenge
2002
Metal Blade/FONO
horror metal

It's a strange thing, you know: every time a new King Diamond record comes out, reviewers say that it's much better than the previous couple of releases and the first in the past few years to stand comparison with the King's classic albums. In a year another release is out and reviewers say that it is much better than the previous one. If you read such reviews one after the other or at least keep them in mind, you may think that "Abigail II" is a supreme masterpiece, but unfortunately, it is far from being so. Actually, it's a typical King Diamond record with all trademarks in it - versatile (and quite annoying for many) vocals, exceptional guitar soloing, complicated song structures, a variety of background effects and, of course, a powerful concept. Nothing has changed in King Diamond's music in the past 15 years, and I don't know about you, but to me the man is just repeating himself in an attempt to rival his works of the 1980s, an undertaking in which anyone is doomed to fall. It's not that "Abigail II" is so much worse than "Abigail" or "Conspiracy", it's just that I've heard it all before a good many times. If not for the concept, I would not have bothered to check out this release at all. Fans-only stuff. (Maniac)

5/5
MAUDLIN OF THE WELL
Bath
2001
Dark Symphonies Records
A thing that no words can describe

If you ask me, I have never thought that there could be music of such great variety. Back in 1999 Maudlin Of The Well released their debut record. By the year 2001 the band had accumulated so much new material that they could have easily released a double album. But having rejected this idea, the guys decided to take another non-standard and rare path and release two albums at the same time ("Bath" and "Leaving Your Body Map") with the exact running time of 60:02. The material of the two CDs is almost of no difference from the musical point of view - the two albums are part of a single concept, they are like two reflections of one mirror. The albums seem to flow one into the other. That is why it's really a pity that right now we have only "Bath", since one can fully understand and feel the MOTW 2001 music only after having listened to both albums. The "Bath" is full of non-standard changes in concepts, ideas and styles. After several minutes of melancholic gothic with clean, soft, and really amusing vocals you can easily face a combo of something fast, furious, scary, filthy, blast-beating, a true piece of musical cacophony, that slowly dissolves into the beautifully played progressive guitar licks. Organ music gives "floor" to a guitar playing some kind of a soundtrack to a romantic date in the shades of trees, and then all of a sudden the skies burst open and the wrath of gods falls upon you, followed by angel-like vocals as a reliever... Listening to "MAUDLIN OF THE WELL" can be compared to wandering in an unknown city encountering the most unexpected things on this planet be they good or bad. I repeat - no words can describe the contents of that CD. But all genius things have their own letdowns. How many times can you read a good crime story? One? Two? But every time it becomes less and less interesting, since you already know who the murderer is... That's the point about "MAUDLIN OF THE WELL", all unpredictable u-turns straighten out to be familiar and this side of the "Bath" doesn't exist for you anymore. The only thing that you'll have to do afterwards is enjoy one of the strangest CDs ever. (Felix the Katt)

5/5
METALIUM
Hero Nation - Chapter Three
2002
Massacre Records
100 percent power metal

Just when I thought that I was getting tired of power metal, Metalium was there to give me a fresh kick. I didn't know what to expect from the record, because its predecessor "State Of Triumph", though being a very good release, was still missing something for me, but press reviews were literally blazing with praises of "Hero-Nation". And the press is right this time, it is indeed an incredibly solid effort featuring everything that you expect from power metal - I don't think I need to describe what power metal is here. If you enjoyed Metalium's debut "Millenium Metal", this one won't disappoint you either. Lyrically, it's true metal as well - the soul of Metalian travels through time and space embodying in the most, let's say it, rebellious historical figures such as Russia's Rasputin or Spain's El Cid. This was the description of the first eight songs on the record. After that Metalium goes wild, first incorporating the melody from pop hit "My Oh My" into the chorus of "Fate Conquered The Power" (can't believe it's a coincidence!), then bringing in a female opera singer on "Infinite Love" and rounding it all up with the epic "Hero Nation", which is followed by hidden track "Heart Of The Tiger", a dedication to the world's boxing champion and a sharp contrast to everything that you've heard on the disc before. Guest appearances of Don Airey, Ken Hensley and Tom Naumann are supposed to be the final blow. An ultimate power metal release! (Maniac)

5/5
MILLENIUM
Hourglass
2001
Frontiers Records / CD-Maximum
melodic metal
Now it's finally something that I can doubtlessly rate at five points. The latest releases have always been missing something, but Millenium's work is just perfect. It is a solid and professional album which has absolutely no drawbacks. Universal vocalist Jorn Lande (The Snakes, Ark, Nikolo Kotzev) and a bunch of musicians from various countries created a record that can truly be called melodic metal masterpiece. Intensive hard'n'heavy a la Whitesnake of the late 1980s alternates with blues standards complimented with AOR arrangements in the vein of House Of Lords and modern melodic hooks borrowed from Ten and Royal Hunt. A variety of melodies and constant changes of moods provide for numerous spins of the record, while emotions put into the album are indeed true and expressed in extremely talented music. It is that rare case when perfect form and sincere content go hand in hand. At times Lande's singling is almost identical to David Coverdale, but it does not spoil the impression, for Jorn has his own vocal style and his range is superior to the present-day "tired" singing of Whitesnake's main charmer. Let's just hope that the success will be a stimulus for the musicians and will not allow them to concentrate on various side projects never realizing their joint potential. (Fireball)

3+/5
MOSHQUITO
Worlds End
2001
SPV / Soyuz
good ole' thrash

When a band releases its second album in the 15 years of existence it cannot but attract your attention to it. East Germany's Moshquito spit into the listener's face an album that might have been very up-to-date and exciting back in 1988-1990 - good, high-quality, piercing, fast, furious, some times even progressive thrash, representing a tasteful blend of Exodus, Baphomet (Ger), Xentrix, Coroner and other great bands. Unusual vocals add up more "spice" to the general picture of the CD. But nowadays it is quite a tough job for these Germans to compete with such bestial thrash avant-garde like The Haunted, Quo Vadis and Annihilator. The music is a bit outdated and makes you yawn sometimes, but for the true old school thrash metal fans "Worlds End" will be an excellent relief from those trendy black/death/-core/gothic stuff. (Felix Da Katt)


3/5
MOURNING CARESS
Imbalance
2002
Arise Records / CD-Maximum
melodic speed death-black

The metal scene is not capable of existing without trendy producers and studios. It just cannot. Seems like a week has not passed since Peter Tatgren announced the closing of his famous Abyss Studios and a hold-up on most of his producer-ship, and we are already facing a new (or an old) hero - Andy Classen and his Stage One Studios (well, he certainly is not the only one to go in for a batch production of CDs but those will come in different reviews.) In our last portion of reviews we already dissected the latest Burden of Grief work, but there is no ending to it and the boys of Mourning Caress are already on their way. The saddest thing about this is that both of the bands do demonstrate a lot of tricky moves and nouvelle ideas, however the overall background of the brutally-melodic death-pasta in the tune of In Flames and a completely matching sound, all of these seemingly fun moves, are simply lost. And of course we absolutely Could not have avoided doing a cover of some old-time classic, could we? Burden of Grief has already done a cover of Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' and this time we gonna go with Ozzy's finest 'Crazy Train'. Well, I am basically interested in only one thing - how long will it take for the producers and labels to understand that with such a "development" very soon we will see the day when the folks do not buy CDs anymore . (Troll)

3/5
NORTHER
Dreams of Endless War
2002
Spinefarm/FONO
melodic speed death-black
And the final frame of our today melodic-black-death triptych went to yet another Finnish band called Norther. A child of Finnvox Stduios and the producer mastermind of Mikko Karmila, 'Dreams of Endless War' reflects more variations in the tune of Childen ofBodom and Absurdus (yep, the latter was the band that started it all - speed black death, I mean, - at Candlelight). "Hey this is not funny anymore! - some of the readers might say, - The stupid Troll must be kidding us. It's just impossible that three bands would play completely similar music!" Oh dear, it 'mafraid Well, sure right you are of course it is not that much similar as someone who might be not into this kind of stuff could have thought (and this is precisely why all the three bands are getting an equal, but not a really bad evaluation mark). All of these honourable gentlemen have their own style, and their own composition character and much-much more differences, but lo and behold, it's really hard to notice them from spin one. And suppose you would try to listen to all of the three albums in one go you'd likely hear one very long album. So sad. The Norther boys did try to be more original when it came to picking the cover, taking up the more pop-side 'Final Countdown' (courtesy of Europe), but this turned out for worse as well. Point is that exactly the same cover of exactly the same song was recorded by Sweden's Dispatched a year and a half ago (Troll)

5/5
PINK CREAM 69
Endangered
2001
Massacre Records
melodic rock

Nothing new here this time, except for the fact that "Endangered" is Pink Cream's best record since their eponymous debut dated 1989. This is melodic rock at its best, everything that this style is famous for. If excellent melodies, guitar drive, electrifying tempos and a massive doze of optimism is the description of your favourite music, "Endangered" just got to be in your record collection. What singles it out from the multitude of melodic rock albums is catchiness - once you've heard "He Took The World", "Promised Land" or my favourite "Trust The Wiseman", you'll never forget them. Only Axxis can beat Pink Cream 69 as far as this quality is concerned. Unfortunately, melodic rock has a limited fan base, and I don't think that black or death metal aficionados will one day fall in love with Pink Cream. They may, of course, say that they've heard exactly the same stuff for the past 10 years, but to this I reply that traditional isn't a synonym to crap, and that "Endangered" IS the band's best album in those 10 years. Unlike many other bands, Pink Cream 69 havn't been sticking to the same sound all this time, they've been experimenting with a lot of styles, even alternative, and their current work is indeed what the band does best. At this I'll end this review - fans of Bonfire, Casanova, or Axxis must already be on their way to acquiring the album, and the rest should just bear in mind that if one day they'll want to try melodic rock, "Endangered" is among the style's best examples. And the cover of The Who's "Pinball Wizard" is superb, too. (Maniac)

5/5
PULSE
Pulse
2002
Frontiers Records / CD-Maximum
traditional hard rock

Knowing the fact that the Pulse debut album features contributions of former Ten keyboardist, guitarist from Bob Catley solo opuses and bassist of Hard Rain (featuring same Bob Catley) I expected to hear something epic in the vein of Ten or Magnum. But the music turned out to be much simpler though the album catches the listener and keeps him up till the very last note. The intro sounds to the first track might remind of something progressive but several seconds later you hear traditional hard rock tracks in the vein of classical Whitesnake of 1984. The singer combines both David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes but not like it was in Deep Purple. The band is very much different from other Whitesnake clowns for it managed to create really awesome songs which can stand comparison with "Slide It In" or "Love Ain't No Stranger". At the same time Pulse has its own style which can be easily seen on "Waiting", "Just For A Moment" and "Without You". The band has enormous potential and if keeping the same style it might enjoy worldwide success in future.. (Dead Ripper)

3+/5
REVENGE
Handle With Care
2001
Brennus Music / CD-Maximum
heavy rock'n'roll

Everything that's ever been invented in the United States has definitely found its reflection in the Old World; moreover, Europeans have always managed to go beyond copying the idea just for the sake of copying, as Americans often do, they are adding their own thoughts to it. This is the thing that happened with hard boogie, which has originally been considered traditional American music. Europeans complemented the rock'n'roll-drive-plus-heavy-riffing formula by a stronger feeling and lyrics and stripped it off some share of straightforwardness and monotony. The Germans and Swiss people have been the leaders in this sphere, but now I am pleased to announce that the French have started to perform cool hard rock, too. Obviously, Revenge fails to reach the level of Gotthard, Krokus or Bonfire and the production suffers badly from lack of funds, which results in the-louder-the-better sound more characteristics of amateur live performances than of official releases. Nevertheless, the musicians are doing their best to add their own melodies to cliched riffs and patterns ("Fortress", "Indians", "Gloryfied") and the drive they generate shows their true love for the music. Thus, the raw sound turns from a drawback into advantage when coupled with enthusiastic performance and creates a true rock'n'roll feeling that only the youth that follows no rules and conventions is possessing. The only problem that cannot be overlooked is the weak vocalist that not only produces unnecessary thrashy growls and allows himself inaccurate singing, but also goes off-key at times. (Fireball)

4/5
RHAPSODY
Rain Of a Thousand Flames
2001
Limb Music/SPV
sympho speed power

Using the terms of the vinyl era, this is an EP that should serve as a taster of the upcoming LP which will be out in March. However the EP is 42 minutes long, which is longer than full albums of many bands, and only knowing the Italians' fascination by long concepts you understand that the seven tracks, including two instrumentals, are far from being the end of the story. Judging from this record, we've still got a long way to go. Symphonic arrangements and song structures are getting more complicated, and narrations are getting longer and even start to be annoying. The overall sound has changed a bit, which is actually the case with each Rhapsody record. The most obvious change is Fabio Leone's vocals that has unexpectedly become rougher and more aggressive. Changes in the melodies and production are less obvious, but also discernable after several spins. The spirit of the album is that of cold classicism, entertaining barocco themes have become very rare, while light and airy patterns have given way to tough and rigid structures. Apparently, the band is entering a new era of symphonic metal. I remember a news conference at Wacken Open Air last year, where Luca Turilli said that the band was very inexperienced at the beginning, but had a lot of enthusiasm. Now we take life for what it is, we have grown up and sure learned something, he said. This is confirmed by the band's new work that serves as the best demonstration of talent and mastership of the renown Italian combo. (Fireball)

3/5
RING OF FIRE
The Oracle
2001
Frontiers Records / CD-Maximum
neo-classic metal

It's really stupid and makes no sense to expect that Ring Of Fire leader Mark Boals changes his musical preferences all of a sudden. For more than a decade he's been loyal to neoclassic metal that he founded together with guitar maniac Yngwie J. on the legendary 1986 "Trilogy" record. Ring Of Fire was originally a project of several prominent musicians, now it's a full-time band, but the transformation didn't bear any fruit. On the contrary, losses are obvious. Maybe they are due to the intention to release the follow-up to the successful debut as soon as possible or to the departure of guitarist Tony MacAlpine who succeeded in staying within neoclassic limits and combining high-quality performance with nice melodies, which cannot be said about his successor George Bellas. The replacement is inadequate and constitutes the main drawback of the record which is also less powerful than the debut and obviously weaker as far as the songwriting is concerned. Fantastic keyboard improvisations of Vitaly Kuprij don't save the situation. To tell you the truth, poor sound and lack of hits made me hate the album after the first spin, and I was about to rate it at two points, but decided to give it another try for lately it has become a rule, not that I'm enjoying it, that most releases require several spins to be evaluated properly. As a result, my verdict changed to "more or less OK" and "will do". A record for collectors only, and if your collection has a place for the latest tormenting releases of Yngwie Malmsteen, you may even enjoy this one. (Fireball)

5/5
ROUGH SILK
Symphony Of Life
2001
Breaker Records
metal meets world music

Rough Silk are among Germany's most talented and mysterious bands. Having existed for more than a decade and recorded five incredible records, they are still relatively unknown outside their home country. The band's peculiarity that you cannot compare it with anybody else. Just like the band name prescribes, Rough Silk combines heaviness and power on the one hand with melodies and softness on the other hand. "Symphony Of Life" is the band's sixth effort and the best one, in my opinion. It is a concept album, "a journey through time and space", or "the mix of metal and world music", as keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg puts it. The musicians used a variety of instruments from all over the world in the recording of the songs and played all of them themselves. But even the most exotic instruments fit the metal basis nicely and you don't get surprised when a typical power metal fragment is broken by a tango theme ("Suicide King & Chaos Queen"), a melodic rock song turns into a Brazilian samba ("Silicone"), or Scottish and Japanese melodies are put together in one track ("Stories To Tell"). The record lasts 71 minutes, but it never gets tiresome as themes change so quickly and smoothly that you get an impression of travelling in a fantastic aircraft and catching a few notes from each country that you're flying over. Actually, trying to describe this disc is like trying to describe "Bohemian Rhapsody", you just got to hear it to know what it's like. If you manage to get hold of "Symphony Of Life", be sure that you've obtained last year's most important album. (Lynx)


3/5
ROYAL HUNT
The Watchers
2002
Frontiers Records / CD-Maximum
progressive melodic heavy

It's very difficult to review Royal Hunt - if you've never heard it, explanations will hardly make any sense, and if you have, they'll make no sense at all, especially given that the album doesn't contain a single new track. Honestly, I doubt that the disc is worth the money, even though I was a Royal Hunt fan a while ago and I still love their music. Still "The Watchers" disappointed me quite a lot. First, I don't see a reason why the band had to make another live album (four of the 10 tracks here are live and four more are studio re-recordings of old classics, which sound exactly like live versions as heard at the band's 2000 gig in Moscow), when they already have the brilliant "1996" and most of the tracks from "The Watchers" are available there. The only difference from those classic recordings is that John West is now doing the vocals, not a single note in the instrumentation is changed. Second, there are some songs that acquire or lose their charm depending on the performer, and one of such songs is "Message To God". I don't have any claims to John West, he's a great vocalist and a nice guy, but this song is not organic to him. Third, why no new tracks at all? I believe the band could include a couple of new ones here at least for decency's sake. Taken as it is, "The Watchers" is nothing more that a nice disc of a nice band, nothing new and, alas, nothing interesting. (Lynx)

5/5
SQUEALER
Under The Cross
2002
AFM Records / CD-Maximum
angry power metal

"Under The Cross" kicks off with the sound of a closing door, heavy breathing and a riff that is very similar to (guess what?) Pantera's "Mouth For War". Lyrically, the song ("Painful Lust") tells the story of "a masturbating monk" which hits the listener on the head even heavier, especially if he/she was prepared to hear another happy power metal album. Squealer's fifth full-length release is their darkest and heaviest effort ever, where power metal is combined with aggressive guitars in the vein of Pantera and Fear Factory. This explosive mixture is ignited by harsh lyrics, most of which are dealing with religion and its effect on human minds, and the super-stylish cover and booklet. Add to it incredibly clear and powerful production done with the help of such renown people as Tommy Newton, Mikko Karmila and Andy Sneap, and you'll get the picture of a total metal killer! Just as if it's not enough, "Under The Cross" features such teasers as monk singing on the title track, a cool ballad ("Rules Of Life"), a nearly love metal track ("Fade Away") with vocals a-la Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), a cool cover version of pop hit "In Zaire" (also done by Bonfire), and a superb bonus track "Low Budget Heroes", one of the two fast songs on the CD. I don't know about you, but for the this is enough to rate the album at five points, even though similiarities with Brainstorm and Primal Fear are quite obvious at times. (Maniac)

4/5
THE TRACEELORDS
Sex, Money, Rock'N'Roll!
2001
Massacre Records
rock'n'roll/power metal

Well, it's not really rock'n'roll, nor it's power metal, it's a meeting point of the two genres, where true power metal drive is mixed with the rock'n'roll attitude. The Traceelords, a project led by ex-Sodom guitarist Andy Brings, can also be described as "Tom Angelripper goes power". Right from the beginning of the record the guys hit the listener by surprise with a heavy metal version of Boney M classic "Daddy Cool", and keep up the flame with their own hilarious tracks like "F**kin' Grow Up" and "Start It With A Kiss, Stop It With A Gun". In between groundbreaking rock'n'roll tunes you can find a few lighter songs like "See You When I See You" or "My Kinda Girl" with love lyrics that are so cliched that you can't take them seriously. Actually, the whole album is one big joke, starting from the band name (if you don't know, Tracee Lords is a porno star) to funny spoken introductions to many songs, but it's a great joke and a fine stuff for bringing you up when you're down. "Sex, Money, Rock'n'Roll!" can even be compared to works of Slade and Toy Dolls as far as the spiritual effect is concerned. The only drawbacks are a strange mastering pattern that makes heavy songs sound quieter and slower tunes, louder, and the fact that most of the material was released by the same band several years ago. Let's wait for the next release to evaluate The Traceelords more objectively. (Maniac)


4-/5
VANDEN PLAS
Beyond Daylight
2002
Inside Out / SPV
prog metal
There's something strange about this release. Everything seems to be OK at first sight - the music is very pleasant prog metal in the European vein (Poverty's No Crime will be the closest analogue), the recording quality is excellent, melodies are abundant, all playing and singing are high-class, but Time and again I am spinning the disc and desperately trying to recall at least one song after the music is over, but I only succeed in recalling the opening track "Nightwalker". The rest are very nice to listen, but in the end I cannot but feel a sort of emptiness behind the beautiful facade. Progressive metal is constantly accused of sacrificing soul for technical perfection, and this is, I'm afraid, just the case. You may use "Beyond Daylight" as a background music and enjoy it very much, but it's not the type of record that makes you abandon everything and listen in awe or perplexity. I don't really know what's wrong, sorry guys, but to me earlier Vanden Plas records are much more impressive. (Maniac)

4+/5
VICIOUS RUMORS
Sadistic Symphony
2001
Point Music
American heavy underground vets

Like most U.S.-based heavy, thrash or power metal formations, Vicious Rumors are an unfortunate band. First, they are unfortunate to live in a country where true metal is considered old-fashioned by the overwhelming percentage of people aged 15-30 (most active buyers of CDs). Second, they are unfortunate to be not melodic enough for the European and Japanese markets, and their ascetic sound (the less keyboards, the better) and the metal-must-be-aggressive songwriting pattern turn to be unprofitable in the most metal-friendly regions. In such adverse conditions, their records are bound to vary in quality, and a disastrous release or two is something that every American band of this kind has gone through in its career. Fortunately, "Sadistic Symphony" is far from disastrous. In fact, it's a damn fine album that comes close to matching the band's self-titled CD released in 1990, their best so far. Recommended to fans of Iced Earth, though adepts of European power metal should not avoid it either, for aggression and harmonies are well-balanced here. Again, the weak point is lack of hits, but man, you don't write songs like "Down To The Temple" every day. (Maniac)

5/5
VIRGIN STEELE
The Book Of Burning
2002
Noise Records
noble savage metal

The restless one, the only heir of ancient gods and the direct offset of wild Barbarians known to the world as David DeFeis is delivering another fine goodie to the fans. What Virgin Steele have on offer this time is not a concept album with a twisted storyline and tons of symphonic arrangements, but a compilation of unreleased tracks and old songs that have been re-recorded to match the contemporary Virgin Steele style. The record is indeed worthwhile, as it allows the listener to take a break from David's mythological research and just enjoy good songs without spending hours and hours on getting into relations of Olympic gods. New tracks are done in the style of the band's latest works and easily match them in power and richness of arrangements. The only surprise is "The Final Days", which is a rap (!) track with social lyrics. As to the old songs, most of them are taken from 1984's "Guardians Of The Flame" album that was a harbinger of the band's future sound which flourished so beautifully in the 1990s. That is why "Don't Say Goodbye", "I Am The One" and "Guardians Of The Flame" sound so naturally on the current album as if they had been composed only a few months ago. And when it comes to the symphonic-acoustic masterpiece "A Cry In The Night", it becomes obvious that only gods can have a sadness like that. (Fireball)

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